Recently I've been pondering: Why exactly is it that people think kids need to 'earn their keep' or 'carry their own weight' or for that matter reward their parents for parenting?
As far as I can tell...the parents are the ones to choose to have their children. Kids don't sit around saying "PICK ME! PICK ME!"
I first started wondering about this when my step-daughter moved in with us 2 years ago. At the time, she had just turned 11. She moved in to a house that consisted of what one would consider a "traditional family lifestyle". A 2-parent house with 2 other siblings...a 4 year old sister and 1 year old brother. Oh and don't forget the 2 dogs and cat :)
In this "traditional family" house-hold, Mom is the home-maker. Mom also works out of the house alongside Dad, but we have the fortunate situation where Mom can do both. So Mom cooks for the family, does the laundry for the family and...oh...well...you get the scenario. So the 11 year old moves in. What does this Mom do? She 100% includes her into their family lifestyle. This means doing her laundry, cooking for her, making sure her things are picked up and kept clean & organized.
The initial reaction is: why isn't the 11 year old 'earning her keep'? She's old enough to do her own laundry, make her own school lunches, clean her own room, etc. But I question that! Is she really? Should she have to? Did she barter in some way, shape or form to be born into this world and should in return be so thankful that she will 'carry her own weight'?
To this I respond with an emphatic NO!! I am the parent. I am the Mom. I am the adult. I'm doing the cooking, cleaning, raising, laundering, and what not for the other children in the house...why...because she CAN should she be expected to at the meager age of 11? Doesn't she have an ENTIRE lifetime ahead of her where she will most likely be doing this for herself and possibly her family when she is old enough?
Why I ask, should this be put upon a child? Why should a child have to be 'grateful' or 'thankful' or 'indebted' for something that, quite frankly, they did not even ask for?!
Now...I'm not saying that kids should not be taught to take care of themselves. Of course they need to know how to take care of themselves (ie: 'carry their own weight'). It would be doing an injustice if a teen didn't know how to make their own bed, or do their own laundry, or manage their time in such a way that they can learn to be on time and respect deadlines.
BUT that does not mean that they should be on their own in doing so. I hear people say that "it's a tough world out there" and "when your older, you wont have anyone to help with..." To that I say BULLSHIT! In 'the real world' you have a TEAM to work with you. At the office...you have co-workers or project managers or team leaders or administrators to assist you in your tasks....to guide you...to make sure you are doing what is expected and right for the better of the Team. If you work at a school...you have other teachers to help guide you, a principal you can go to for assitance or help, mentors, counselors, peers, even students themselves to work together as a Team.
Kids should not be made to feel guilty if they are not rewarding their parents Parenting. Kids should be KIDS. You only get to be a kid for what?...18 years out of ~80?! That's less than 1/4 of a typical lifespan.
We have 3/4 of our life to be adults...to be responsible for ourselves and then for others.
So when I do my step-daughter's laundry, who is now 14, I refuse to think that wrong. I'm doing the 6 year old's laundry and the 4 year old's laundry...and, shit, for that matter my 35 year old husband's laundry...I can sure as shit do my 14 year old's laundry.
I'll clean my kids' rooms, do their laundry, cook their meals, make their school lunches, and drive them to and from any and all social activities. I will put my social needs on hold for them, because this is THEIR time.
I had my time, and when they are old enough, I'll have my time again. But I CHOSE to be a parent. I CHOSE to have multiple children. I CHOSE to have a house where each child was able to have his/her own space. I CHOSE to adopt my pets. Until they are "on their own" and in "the real world"...I will continue to PARENT my family, because that is what I am. I am a parent. That is what parents do.
The only "reward" I expect for this, is when they decide it's time to become parents, they do for their kids what I have done for them. The reward will be, being a grandparent.
We are, after all, a Team!